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Bernie Sanders: I’ll fight until ‘last vote is cast’

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks at a campaign rally, Saturday, May 28, 2016, in Santa Maria, Calif. Credit: AP / Mark J. Terrill

Bernie Sanders has shown no signs of suspending his Democratic presidential campaign, chiding presumptive GOP nominee Donald Trump for backing out of a debate with him and maintaining that superdelegates can be swayed to his side.

“We’re going to fight until the last vote is cast and try to appeal to the last delegate we can,” Sanders said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

But the Vermont senator should set his sights on different sorts of victories, strategists say.

Though delegate math isn’t likely to add up to a nomination for Sanders, the popular vote has helped him gain unprecedented influence over the formation of the Democratic Party’s platform. He was awarded five picks to the committee that drafts key party stances, only one fewer than primary front-runner Hillary Clinton.

Sanders can also mobilize his legion of loyal young activists to boost Clinton against Trump in the general election, experts say.

His “political revolution” can wield influence long after November, holding elected officials accountable on income inequality, environmental justice and other issues, they say.

“He’s won everything except the nomination,” said Washington, D.C.-based Democratic strategist Brad Bannon, adding that chief Sanders issues such as raising the minimum wage to $15 and curbing international trade agreements will play prominently at the party’s July convention in Philadelphia.

Sanders has a closing window in which to milk the benefits and protect the legacy of his insurgent campaign, Democratic strategist Steven Schale said.

“He has every right to continue on to the end, but in a lot ways he has to land the plane smoothly,” Schale said. “The success of his movement beyond the campaign is predicated largely on her winning the presidency.”

The candidate should begin working with party leaders to merge his resources with Clinton’s, said Schale, who worked on President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns in Florida.

Sanders, who stumped over the weekend in California ahead of the state’s June 7 primary, has underscored national polls that show he would perform better against Trump than would Clinton. He sought to further prove the point in a debate, though Trump last week said he wouldn’t face the “second-place finisher.”

Sanders acknowledged Sunday that the “uphill fight” to best Clinton in pledged delegates could lead only to “symbolic victory” because he also would have to win over the more powerful superdelegates aligned with the former secretary of state.

His surrogates say the campaign will fight fiercely at the convention, just as it has throughout the primary.

“I’ve said and Bernie has said, democracy is not about falling in line and behaving, democracy is about rigorous debate among people who love their country enough to fight for what they believe in,” said Brooklyn-based activist Linda Sarsour, who will serve as a national delegate.

She predicted that Sanders’ position that the United States should support the needs of the Palestinian people in addition to those of Israel will be well-represented.

Robert Reich, a Sanders surrogate who was secretary of labor under Bill Clinton, said his candidate has done a “huge and important service to the country” in highlighting economic inequity.

“I don’t think people are going home,” Reich said of Sanders backers. “I hope they don’t stop being politically active simply because Bernie Sanders has stopped being their candidate — if in fact that comes to pass.”

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